The money being thrown at school improvement seems to know no bounds. Hundreds of millions of pounds in Strategic School Improvement Fund and Teacher & Leadership Innovation Fund projects; yet some schools are struggling to fund even the most basic professional development to staff. Think Reading Club!
Four years ago, I suggested to the headteachers in the Trust that we should read books and articles then discuss them with each other; things that were of interest and implications for our current practice. The first book was Leverage Leadership by Paul Bambrick Santoyo; deliberately chosen at a time we were faced with developing an assessment system that would no longer be based on National Curriculum levels. The first chapter was mind blowing; it’s now part of our everyday practice. During the year we talked about micro lesson observations, coaching of newly qualified staff on a weekly basis and collaborative curriculum planning processes. For about sixty pounds we got the best part of six or seven meetings debate on how we could improve the school.
Next up was Teach Like a Champion 2.0 by Doug Lemov and the reading mushroomed. We bought copies for newly qualified staff who adopted a number of the practices within the book. Similarly for a more experienced group of teachers; this time the processes were pulled apart and debated. Key elements were identified and teachers used them to hone their own classroom processes and systems.
Since then, as a Leadership team we have always had a reader on the go: Schools for Human Flourishing (ethos based); Love Over Fear by John Tomsett (leadership and culture building); Essays on Self Theories by Carol Dweck (growth mindset); Cleverlands by Lucy Creehan (lessons from the higher performing education systems across the World) and Drive by Daniel Pink (motivation at an organisational level). All the books were carefully chosen to make sure we thought deeply about a live and important issue that we were facing as leaders. The headteachers often bought the books for their senior leadership teams; reading, reflecting and discussing some more. We’ve done something similar with research papers and literature reviews.
We’ve returned to whole staff readers again this year; the process is voluntary and staff can engage with some books and not with others, as suits their interest and other time commitments. Around forty staff chose to read The Reading Mind by Daniel Willingham; finding it absolutely fascinating. We ordered the books for staff (handing them out for people to read and keep); set up a couple of meetings after school. Staff came along having read the book to discuss their thoughts and how we might improve reading across our primary and secondary academies. It was honestly a delighted to be involved in. Forty staff with hugely enhanced knowledge and understanding of the reading process for fifteen pounds a piece. Reading has been our biggest issue to address this year; the reading is all part of the extended and crucially important initial part of the planning phase. Too often schools implement improvement priorities without having given sufficient thought or time about what they should do and how they might do it; the initiative withers and dies. We’ve now just ordered Closing the Vocabulary Gap by Alex Quigley for thirty five interested staff; massive impact for just over four hundred pounds.
#ThursdayThunk is based on something I’ve been thinking about, discussing, working on or has been topical that week. The thunk is designed to be bite sized and will deliberately be kept short. It will take one small issue or an aspect of something much bigger. The intention is for it to be read in two/three minutes as you’re busy running around at the end of the week or relaxing on your day off.